Considering an Electronic Hand Hygiene System? What to Look For

An electronic hand hygiene system can help you boost hand hygiene rates, prevent healthcare-associated infections (HAIs), and earn a top Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade. 

The Leapfrog Group has communicated “a strong preference for use of electronic monitoring,” according to the Leapfrog Hospital Survey, as research suggests “electronic monitoring works better to pinpoint compliance issues” and the “sheer numbers of hand hygiene opportunities covered by the two monitoring strategies [direct observation and electronic monitoring] represent powerful evidence in favor of electronic monitoring.”

That last point is particularly important in today’s era of persistent staff shortages. As noted by the authors of a systematic review of hand hygiene technology, electronic systems “can capture hand hygiene events with substantially fewer personnel resources.” Data collected by electronic hand hygiene systems is also more likely to be representative of typical practice, as direct observation can influence providers’ actions and skew data.

Hand hygiene technology is an investment, so it’s smart to carefully consider your options before making a purchase. If you’re considering an electronic hand hygiene system, look for a system that: 

  • Doesn’t disrupt clinical workflow

A system that requires extra steps or disrupts clinical workflow will not be readily accepted by healthcare workers. Systems that require employees to don bracelets or heavy, bulky tags, or to cup their hands over their badge to receive “credit” for hand hygiene will likely be rejected. In fact, a 2019 article published in Antimicrobial Resistance & Infection Control found that staff inconvenience and system inaccuracy often cause dissatisfaction  -- and a subsequent “unwillingness to continue with use of the system.”  

Look for an electronic hand hygiene system that works with existing clinical workflows. For example: a badge that attaches to employees’ name tags and automatically records hand hygiene incidents without requiring any extra steps or additional documentation.

  • Is unobtrusive

Alarm fatigue is very real. Although it might seem like a good idea to purchase a hand hygiene system that alarms, either audibly or visibly, when workers inadvertently miss a hand hygiene opportunity, there are significant downsides to systems that include alarms.

Beeps and buzzes can increase disorientation of patients with dementia or certain mental illnesses. Staff members may “tune out” – or even turn off – audible alarms, which may counterintuitively teach them to avoid or ignore hygiene reminders. Visual alarms or prompts, such as a flashing red light, can trigger patient or family anxiety

Look for a system that seamlessly transmits digital info to an easy-to-read electronic dashboard. Healthcare providers should be able to access and act on hand hygiene compliance data without alarming patients or shaming providers.

  • Is easy to use

Look for human resources information system (HRIS) integration. An electronic hand hygiene system that’s compatible with your HRIS software will be far easier to set up than one that requires users to manually assign badges to individual employees, for instance.

You’ll also want a system with an easy-to-use dashboard because if your staff members can’t easily access and review data, they’re unlikely to use that data to improve hand hygiene. In contrast, when staff can easily review hand hygiene performance at the facility, unit, position, and individual level, they can identify shortcomings and develop tailored strategies to improve hand hygiene and patient safety. Easy-to-use electronic hand hygiene systems have been proven to significantly improve hand hygiene compliance and decrease HAIs

  • Includes personalized customer support & a commitment to success

Most healthcare facilities need help installing and setting up an electronic hand hygiene system. But don’t settle for basic tech support. Instead, look for a system that includes personalized support. Ideally, you want a dedicated customer success team that can help local leaders analyze data and develop strategies to boost hand hygiene compliance. The customer success team should also be able to help you address technological challenges and measurably improve hand hygiene. 

An unobtrusive, easy-to-use electronic hand hygiene system can increase patient safety and decrease healthcare-associated infections. The SwipeSense system includes simple badges that easily attach to employee name tag; a powerful, accessible electronic dashboard that helps clinical leaders understand and track hand hygiene performance; and a dedicated customer success team to support you.